- Author: Denise Seghesio Levine
As you clean up your garden and remove summer annuals, take care to banish weeds and their seedpods, too. Pick up a truckload of well-aged compost, or schedule a delivery, from one of Napa County's two excellent compost companies. Nourish tired garden soil with fertilizers that replace potassium and phosphorous. After you fertilize and amend soil, water well to disperse the nutrients. If your fertilizer comes in a bag, box or bottle, carefully follow abel directions.
Be merciless in removing weed seedpods. However, if you grew calendulas, violas, forget-me-nots or zinnias, shaking their seed heads as you weed will reward you with color spots the following spring. Even some edible crops like lettuce, onions and parsley will often reseed if you encourage them.
In fact, some annuals are such vigorous self-sowers thatWeeds of California and Other Western States,a University of California publication, considers them weeds. Violets, forget-me-nots and many others are in this group. Luckily for me, they are some of my favorite flowers. Denim-blue or yellow violas, sweet-scented purple violets (Viola odorata) and bold-faced pansies ranging from deep blue to pink can all be planted now. Plant violas in garden beds and put more in pots to bring some cheer to the coming winter days.
Tuck calendulas, also called pot marigolds, in any bare spot in the garden, and they will reward you with bright gold flowers throughout the winter. They will fade in summer's heat, but then a shake of their tough little seed heads will sow the next season's color. In the kitchen, calendula petals can brighten salads and are sometimes used as a “poor man's saffron.”The golden petals can tint rice dishes and other recipes needing a dash of color.
Plant perennials and California natives now so they can benefit from still-warm soil and grow strong before winter comes. If you plant foxglove seedlings from six-packs now, they will be six feet tall and have towering blossoms by next year. Small snapdragon plants, which children will enjoy, will be covered with little snappers by summer and provide bright flowers through the winter months, too.
Even decorative vegetables can perk up a walkway or bed. Pink and lime-green cabbages and vivid purple and red kales can provide color all winter long.
Sow seed now for the golden California poppies and red poppies that grace many an Impressionist canvas. It's a good time to sow other wildflowers, too, before the rains come. Look for seed packets of your favorites, or pick up one of the many wildflower blends formulated for shady or sunny spots.
Bulbs, corms and tubers are on nursery shelves now. Plant daffodils, sparaxis and freesia in garden beds or pots to brighten decks and indoor rooms. Some bulbs do benefit from pre-chilling, so read directions that come with the bulbs. Make sure beds and pots have good drainage.
Although many people are removing lawns, October is a good month to plant new lawn or renovate an older one. Over-seed now to correct bare or stressed spots.
Napa County Cooperative Extension recommends a premium blend of grass formulated for California's cooler growing areas. If you are curious about which turf grass is best, you can get reports from Cooperative Extension on how the different grasses and blends perform. Lawns and turf are often criticized as being wasteful of water, but they do provide some fire protection around a home.
Sweet peas can be planted now. Dig beds deeply and amend with aged compost.Tall varieties can be grown along fences or trellises and short varieties in beds or containers. Heirlooms with rich fragrances are my favorites, but last year I planted a dwarf sky-blue variety that bloomed tirelessly in a half barrel on the deck until the first summer heat finished them.
October weather can be varied, so be vigilant a little longer. Pay attention to weather forecasts and protect your new seed sprouts and tender seedlings from any final scorching days. Windy days zap moisture from air and soil, so make sure young plants are weathering those conditions, too.
Workshop: U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will host a workshop on “Citrus” on Saturday, October 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., at the University of California Cooperative Extension Office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Napa. This workshop will focus exclusively on caring for citrus, large and small. Potting and repotting container citrus, pruning, watering and fertilizing, frost protection and recovery from frost damage are part of the program. The workshop will also cover using the University of California IPM website to identify and understand citrus disease and pests.Online registration (credit card only); Mail-in registration (cash or check only).
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County ( http://ucanr.org/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.
Other crops that gardeners will be enjoying this month include beets, carrots, shallots, peppers, eggplant, summer squash, potatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, melons, endive, lettuce, peas and beans of all varieties. If you have more than you can use, consider donating to the county food bank, or call the U. C. Cooperative Extension office (707-253-4221) for canning, pickling, freezing and drying techniques to preserve your fruits and vegetables. You will welcome these fresh tastes of summer in the dark of winter.
One sign of a beginning gardener is a reluctance to pick the fruits of one's labor. But as experienced gardeners know, harvesting vegetables, herbs and flowers often encourages the plant to produce a new flush of growth. The reason plants make fruits and flowers is to ultimately produce seed. When you harvest your garden's bounty, many of your plants will make another effort to produce seed. The result is often a whole new crop.
Between enjoying and preserving your harvest, keep up with watering and fertilizing. After a few hot August days, a morning or two of fog from the coast often cools our valley, but the garden's water needs remain high. Patrol your garden each day to note how plants are doing. A wilting plant may mean a clogged water emitter, or a critter eating roots or tunneling beneath.
Weeds have often gone to seed by now. Remove them carefully to avoid spreading their spawn across your planting beds. I like to sneak up on big, seedy weeds with an open garbage bag and a sharp pair of shears. I slip the garbage bag over the head of the weeds, gently closing the bag around it and then snip or pull out the rest of the plant. My method contains the seeds and saves me time scraping them out of the bed again when they germinate after fall rains.
Now is the time to till beds for fall plantings. After removing the weeds, dig in well-composted organic matter and add fertilizer if needed. U. C. Extension recommends composting and aging any fresh manure, including chicken, cow and horse manure, before you add it to your garden beds. If you buy bags of manure at your local garden center, it has usually been aged. Give your beds a thorough soaking, and then let them rest at least a week before planting your next crop.
Ready to start producing compost at home from your garden and kitchen waste? Good soil is important to all gardens, and the best amendment for all soil types is compost. Compost lightens our heavy Napa County clay soils, helps soil retain water, increases microbial action (a good thing) and furnishes or replaces nutrients necessary for plants to grow. To learn how to make your own compost, come to the Napa County Master Gardener workshops on August 23 in St. Helena and September 6 in Yountville. (Details follow.)
Except for peas, which can be planted directly in the garden now, most winter crops are heavy feeders. Sweet peas and edible peas both fix nitrogen, the element most other plants need.
If you had peas or beans in your summer beds, consider replacing them with autumn cole crops, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbages, collards, or kale. You can start seeds for these vegetables now, or buy seedlings next month to plant out then.
Seeds can go directly in the ground now for your winter kitchen garden.
Carrots, turnips, rutabagas, chard and Asian greens can all be sown directly in the garden now, as can almost of the lettuces, mustards and endives.
Spring-sown annual flowers might be looking a little peaked by now. Cut them back or pull them; cut back perennials when they finish blooming.
The season for garden color is not over. For instant gratification, set out petunias, chrysanthemums, marigolds, zinnias, wax begonias and bedding dahlias for color until frost. Sow seeds of calendulas, poppies, primrose, violas, wildflowers, sweetpeas, and snapdragons for late winter and early spring blossoms.
If your mulch is getting thin in spots, plump it up now. Mulch will help keep weeds down and soil from eroding when the rains finally come.
Workshop: Join Napa County Master Gardeners for a “Back to School, Back to the Garden” workshop on Saturday, August 9, from 10:15 a.m.to 12:15 p.m., at the U. C. Master Gardener Demonstration Garden, Connolly Ranch Education Center, 3141 Browns Valley Road in Napa.
The back-to-school season is a busy time for students, teachers and parents alike. Mid-August is also the best time to start planning the fall and winter garden. This workshop will introduce participants to the concept of year-round garden planning based on the school calendar. It will include many family-friendly activities that can fit into a short amount of time in the evenings or weekends to ensure a successful year-round harvest.Demonstrations and activities include: making compostable seed pots, creating a soil-less seed-starting medium, preparing to start crops from seed, sowing two kinds of kale, and transplanting fall/winter crops into the garden. This workshop is suitable for parents, teachers and children (if accompanied by an adult). Bring a hat, gloves, trowel (optional) and water bottle. Online registration (credit card only)
Mail in registration (cash or check only)
Workshop: Napa County Master Gardeners will conduct a workshop on “Cool Season Veggies” on Sunday, August 17, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Yountville Community Center, 6516 Washington Street, Yountville. The workshop repeats on Saturday, August 23, at U.C. Cooperative Extension, 1710 Soscol, Napa. Grow your own vegetables even when days are short and nights are cold. Learn which vegetables thrive in cooler temperatures, how to protect them from heat when they are getting started, and how to time planting to ensure months of harvest. To register for the Yountville class, call the Parks & Recreation Department at 707-944-8712 or visit their web site. To register for the Napa workshop: Online registration (credit card only)Mail in registration (cash or check only).
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. Napa County Master Gardeners ( http://ucanr.org/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.
Napa County Master Gardeners welcome the public to visit their demonstration garden at Connolly Ranch on Thursdays, from 10:00 a.m. until noon, except the last Thursday of the month. Connolly Ranch is at 3141 Browns Valley Road at Thompson Avenue in Napa. Enter on Thompson Avenue.
- Posted by: Yvonne Rasmussen
- Author: Denise Seghesio Levine
October 12, 2012 5:27 pm • DENISE SEGHESIO LEVINE
This is your chance to find plants that are native to the county, and the diversity may surprise you.
This year, the Native Plant Society has more than 1,000 different varieties of plants for sale. Whether you are looking for winter color, drought tolerance, deer resistance or another manzanita for your collection, you will probably find suitable choices at Skyline Park this weekend.
So how to decide? Native Plant Society member Kendra Baumgartner, a plant pathologist with the UC Davis, has grown many natives in her garden and has several favorites.
Bumblebees and hummingbirds are attracted to the bright red blossoms of California fuchsia (Zauschneria californica). This plant produces abundant trumpet-shaped flowers, does well in full sun, spreads easily by roots and is very drought tolerant.
Another colorful, drought-resistant bumblebee favorite that performs well in sun is flannelbush (Fremontodendron californicum). Flannelbush has big, tropical-looking yellow flowers, and it matures into a small tree. At the Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden in Skyline Park, you can see what flannelbush and other native plants look like and how large they grow.
To attract wild and domestic honeybees, consider wild or California lilac (Ceanothus spp.), which flowers in white, purple or blue. For a drought-resistant ground cover in a spot with full sun, choose C. gloriosus porrectus or C. prostratus. Blue beauties like C. ‘Frosty Blue’ and C. ‘Dark Star’ reach six feet tall or more. If you have a large garden, consider C. ‘Ray Hartman,’ which grows up to 18 feet tall.
Looking for color in a shady spot? For red blossoms in full or partial shade, Kendra suggests spice bush (Calycanthus occidentalis). Spice bush needs more water than some natives, since its natural habitat is normally in riparian areas. In addition to its unique, dark red blossoms in spring, spice bush offers the benefit of its spicy fragrance, which the thick, dark green leaves release when brushed or crushed.
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) is an herbaceous plant, but it is called a grass because it has blade-shaped leaves that grow in tufts. It spreads by roots, does well in full to partial sun and is drought tolerant. The plant takes its name from its little blue flowers with bright yellow centers, which appear in spring and summer.
Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) is a big bunch grass that grows up to two feet tall. It can be hacked to the ground in winter, and it appreciates regular trimming during the growing season to keep it from looking too wild. In Kendra’s garden, dragonflies perch on the upper leaves, while sparrows take shelter under the canopy of leaves that drape to the ground.
Snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus) is another riparian woodland shrub that matures into a low bush with pretty, delicate leaves and tiny pink flowers. Snowberry produces large white berries in winter, an important food source for birds.
The Native Plant Society has at least nine different manzanita varieties available, from Arctostaphyolos uva-ursi ‘Pt. Reyes,’ a ground cover that stays below two feet in height, to A. ‘Dr. Hurd,’ a manzanita that can grow 10 feet tall. Manzanita is a popular plant in Napa County, for good reason. It has beautiful bark in red, tan and brown and tiny pink or white bell-shaped flowers in spring.
If you have room for a medium to tall tree in full or partial sun, take a look at the blue oaks for sale (Quercus douglasii). Blue oaks have beautiful blue-gray leaves that they drop in winter to reveal draping branches that are a favorite perch for songbirds (and, as Kendra warns, for the Cooper’s hawks that eat them). Blue oaks are drought tolerant once established.
Studies show that fall-planted perennials develop more drought resistance. They get off to a good start in warm soil and then have all winter to develop a deep, strong root system. While most plants need to be watered diligently during their first growing season, fall-planted perennials typically need less water for less time than their spring-planted counterparts.
The California Native Plant Society, Napa Chapter, sale took place Saturday, October 13, 2012 and Sunday, October 14, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. While you are at the sale, pick up some information about the California Native Plant Society. This organization is an excellent resource for information about plants in our area. Consider becoming a member so that you can learn through working with them. Getting to know the plants around us and understanding their natural habitat adds richness to our lives in Napa County./h1>